LINGUIST List 13.1364

Wed May 15 2002

Sum: Sensation Predicates

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Daniela Caluianu, sensation predicates

Message 1: sensation predicates

Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 13:50:02 +0900
From: Daniela Caluianu <>
Subject: sensation predicates

Dear Linguist List members,

On April 24 I posted the a query about the treatment of 
the semantic distinction in (1):

(1) a. This tea is hot
 b. I am hot

I was particularly interested in:
(a) accounts of this semantic distinction in languages
 where it is not associated with any formal marking.
(b) whether there are any languages that use distinct
 predicates to express (1a) and (1b).

The following people have replied to my query. I wish to 
thank them once again.

Werner Abraham, Ron Artstein, Isabelle Barriere, Elena 
Bashir, Bingfu, Lisa DeWaard Dykstra, Soren Harder, 
Hans-Werner Hatting, Wim Honselaar, Peter Jacob, Ernest 
McCarus, Asya Pereltsvaig, Hayim Y. Sheynin, Javier Sim
$B...O(J,J L Speranza,

The replies include data from:

Lebanese Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French, German, 
Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Kurdish (Sorani dialect, Iraq and 
Iran) ,Russian, Spanish, Squamish

It appears that most languages are unlike English. The 
opposition between 'This is hot' and 'I am hot' is usually 
marked. Only Chinese, among the listed languages, behaves 
like English. 

There is quite a variety of mechanisms used to this effect.

a. Case Marking (nominative vs. dative) 
b. Choice of auxiliary (BE vs HAVE, BE vs. DO, BE vs. 
c. Syntactic category of the predicate (adjective vs. 
adverb, adjective vs noun)
d. Distinct lexical items

Languages may use one of the mechanisms or more. Thus, 
German, Hebrew, Romanian mark the opposition only through 
the case distinction. French marks it only thorugh choice 
of auxiliary. But most languages use combined means. Hindi 
and Spanish combine case marking with choice of auxiliary, 
Kurdish choice of auxiliary and distinct syntactic 
Russian seems to be the language marking the opposition 
most thouroughly, as it uses different case marking on the 
argument, combined with choice of different forms of the 
predicate and sometimes different lexical items.

When a language marks the semantic distinction property 
vs. sensation formally, the use of the property form with 
human arguments leads to metaphorical reading. 

It is interesting that none of the languages on the list 
makes use of a form expressing directly the semantic 
element 'feel' implied in 'I am hot'. The semantic 
distinction beteen the property reading and the senation 
reading is expressed indirectly, by marking differences in 
the features of the participant (sentience, control, 

I attach the relevant data:

RUSSIAN(dat vs. nom; adj vs. adv; lexical items)
Chaj gorjachij / gorjach (in the past/future tense, also 
gorjachim 'hot.INSTR') tea.NOM hot.LONG.NOM / hot.SHORT

Mne zharko.
me.DAT hot.ADV

Chaj xolodnyj / xolodnovat.
tea.NOM cold.LONG.NOM / somewhat-cold.SHORT

Mne xolodno.
me.DAT cold.ADV

HINDI(case and aux)
mujhe garmii lagii hai
I(DATIVE) heat attach-PERFECTIVE AUX(present)
'I feel hot.'

aaj baRii garmii hai
today much heat is
'Today it is very hot.'

1. Mir.DAT ist kalt = "I am cold qua temperature"
2. Ich,NOM bin kalt = ""I am frigid"
There are dialects which say instead of 1 above:
3. Ich habe es kalt "I have it cold"


Dutch: deze thee is heet
lit. this tea is hot

Dutch: ik heb het heet
lit. I have it hot

The latter construction - with HEB, present tense form of 
the verb HEBBEN,plus the dummy pronoun HET - is the normal 
idiomatic way of expressing sensations:

ha-te xam 
the-tea hot
`The tea is hot'

xam li
hot to-me
`I am hot'

CHINESE(no marking)
Zhe-bei cha re.
this-cup tea hot.

wo re.
I hot

wo juede re
I feel hot.

SPANISH (case and auxiliary)
This tea is hot.
Este te esta caliente. This tea is (temporary 
characteristic) hot (adjective).

I am hot.
Me hace calor. It is hot to me (the weather is acting on 
me and causing me to be hot).

1. a ce the est chaud/this tea BE-3rd person singular hot
2. b j'ai chaud/ I HAVE -1st person singular hot 
 (Literally; I have hot)

SQUAMISH (lexical items)
ts'lhulh	"something that is cold to the touch"
ts'ulhum'	"feeling cold, feeling chilly" (sensation)
tesi7		"feeling cold" (sensation)
t'iqw		"cold weather"

DANISH(syntactic category, aux)
'har det varmt/koldt' ("has it warmly/coldly") 
The adjectives 'varm' and 'kold' would not be 
used about people, except in metaphorical 
senses:kind/unkind, numb or disinterested

KURDISH(synt category and aux)
 "It is cold" saard-a cold-is and 
 "I am cold": saardaa m-a coldness-I-have
saard cold (adj)
saardaa cold (noun).

Italian (auxiliary)
It is cold":- fa freddo
"I am cold": - ho freddo

LEBANESE ARABIC (syntactic category)

T-Taqs kaan bard 'the weather was cold'; 
bard is the noun "cold".
l-xubz kaan baarid 'the bread was cold'; 
baarid is an adjective meaning 'cooled off, cold'
yuusif kaan bardaan 'Joseph was cold'; 
bardaan is a [+animate] adjective of resultant state: 
'(having become) cold'

yuusif kaan baarid ma`ii 'Joseph was cold with me' 
baarid with human referents refers to attitude: 
cool toward, a bit aloof with, not too happy with.

To these examples I might add the Japanese data which 
prompted my query:
a. atsui (It is hot/ I am hot)

b. watashi-ga hitai-ga atsui
 I-NOM forehead-NOM hot
 My brow feels hot

c. watashi-ni kono ocha-ga atsui
 I-DAT this tea-NOM hot
 This tea is (feels) too hot to me

Notice that in both (b) and(c) there are two arguments. 
This fact had made me curious about the treatment of the 
semantic distinction in languages with no overt marking. I 
was wondering whether it is customary to attribute 
diferent semantic representations to the property and the 
sensation readings or attribute the distinction to 
pragmatic factors and keep the representation of the 
predicate constant.

I have received the following reading suggestions:
Moore, John and David Perlmutter (2000) What does it take 
to be a dative subject? NLLT 18. 373-416H. P. 
Grice(1989)'Some remarks about the senses' ,Studies in the 
Way of Words, Harvard University PressH. P. 
Grice()Aristotle on the multiplicity of being' Pacific 
Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 69, sp. section 'Focal 
Unification', on Aristotle on paronymy (Metaph. IV ii)

The gricean notion of _meanings-in-context_ and 
Pustejovsky's Generative Lexicon were suggested as 
possibly useful tools in dealing with this semantic 

I thank all the people who took the time to reply to my 
query. I have quoted only the most relevant data in order 
to keep this message moderately short. I have received 
many interesting comments and data. If you are interested, 
please mail to me and I will send you the unabridged 
version of all the messages.


Daniela Caluianu
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